2010 in review: Top 10 Nationwide storylines
1.) Jamie Lovemark becomes youngest to win money list
Lovemark, the 2007 NCAA champ, won the Mexico Open in dramatic fashion – with an eagle on the first playoff hole – but it was steady play that made him the youngest winner of the Nationwide Tour money list. Lovemark had nine top-10s in 22 starts. Lovemark led a graduating class the tour can be proud of. Three former college players of the year (Lovemark, Chris Kirk and Kevin Chappell) earned cards. They were among 13 players 27 or younger to earn PGA Tour cards.
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Top 10 Nationwide stories of 2010
Check out a visual recap of the top 10 storylines from the Nationwide Tour in 2010.
2.) Nationwide ends umbrella sponsorship
Since its inaugural season of 1990, the PGA Tour’s developmental circuit has been known by four different names – the Hogan, Nike, Buy.com and Nationwide tours. The tour will take on a new name after the 2012 season, maybe sooner. Nationwide announced earlier this year that it will become a presenting sponsor of the Memorial, and not renew its tour sponsorship.
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3.) Steven Bowditch
Bowditch won the Soboba Classic, one of the tour’s two $1 million events, to regain his PGA Tour card. Bowditch’s had 96 putts for the week (one off the tour record) and 18 in the third round (equaling the tour record). Bowditch has overcome depression, which hampered him during his PGA Tour rookie season in 2006.
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4.) Tommy Gainey
Gainey is better known by his nickname “Two Gloves.” He’s a fan favorite not only for his unique swing, but his blue-collar background: He worked on an assembly line in rural South Carolina before becoming a pro golfer. Gainey, who finished 148th on the 2008 PGA Tour money list, regained his Tour card by winning twice on this year’s Nationwide Tour.
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5.) Jhonattan Vegas becomes first PGA Tour player from Venezuela
2010 in review: Top 30 pictures
Golfweek's Tracy Wilcox chooses her Top 30 images of 2010.
Vegas made history first with his victory at the Wichita Open, which made him the first Venezuelan to win a PGA Tour-sanctioned event. He’ll be the first Venezuelan member in PGA Tour history when he tees it up in 2011.
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6.) Nationwide Tour stages first PGA Tour-sanctioned event in South America
The Nationwide Tour went to uncharted territory when it played in Colombia earlier this year. The event was good not only for the country, but its biggest golf celebrity. Camilo Villegas took part in the tournament’s pro-am, then won the Honda Classic that same week.
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7.) Justin Hicks earns first PGA Tour card at 36
Fourteen of the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list will be PGA Tour rookies in 2011. Hicks, 36, will be the oldest of the bunch. Hicks, a two-time Nationwide Tour winner and co-leader after the first round of the ’08 U.S. Open, turned pro in 1997.
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8.) Brendan Steele wins Tour Championship
Brendan Steele is a man of his word. Despite being 26th on the Nationwide Tour money list (the top 25 earn PGA Tour cards), he skipped the second-to-last full-field event of the year to officiate a friend’s wedding. Steele was rewarded with a victory two weeks later in the Nationwide Tour Championship. The win moved him to No. 6 on the final money list.
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9.) Nationwide Tour Championship heartbreak
There’s always heartbreak when PGA Tour cards are on the line. This year’s Nationwide Tour Championship was no exception. Scott Gardiner finished 26th on the money list, just $2,010 short of earning a PGA Tour card, after making triple bogey with six holes remaining in the tournament. James Hahn was in second place and one round away from a PGA Tour card before a final-round 77.
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10.) Ewan Porter
Porter’s victory at the South Georgia Classic was remarkable, considering it was his only top-10 of the season, and he made the cut in just five of 23 starts. After playing the previous week in China, Porter arrived at the tournament the night before it began, and was unable to play a practice round. The victory accounted for $112,500 of his $125,193 in earnings this year. Porter had a similar season in 2008, when he won the Moonah Classic; he made just eight of 24 cuts, and the victory was $148,248 of his $160,674 in earnings.